I think we just need to ingore her. You know, her.

I’ve been thinking a little bit about Miley Cyrus this morning. Not so much because I wanted to, but because my Facebook and news feeds wouldn’t let me NOT think about her.  And I’ve come to a conclusion that makes the most sense to me about how to handle this apparent cultural crisis.

Ignore her.

I didn’t watch the MTV Video Music awards, this year.  Not for any prudish or judgemental reason.  I’ve watched the show many times in the past and been quite entertained by the spectacle of it.  But this year, I just didn’t care.  I was more interested in the 49ers pre-season football game than in finding out who would take home a moon-man.  And, if we’re being truthful, the MTV Video Music awards has barely ever been about who actually wins the awards.  It’s about being seen by, and making an impression with, the MTV viewing audience.  It’s a promotional tool for the artists who appear on the show.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!  Putting an emphasis on the artists and the music is a good thing.  Certainly, the success of the VMA’s over the years played a part in the Grammy Award show’s shift from a focus on handing out Grammys to a focus on creating buzz through artist participation in the annual broadcast.  And the Grammy Awards are better for it!

But I’ve kind of moved away from the VMA’s.  And all of this Miley madness has got me wondering why?  It’s not an easy answer.  But I think this is part of it:

As I’ve gotten older (not old, just older), my personal music tastes have trended away from the over-exposed offerings of current top-40 radio.  Certainly, this accounts for part of my disenchantment with the VMA’s.  At one point during the football game Sunday night, I did switch over to see what was happening on the show.  It was right as they were getting ready to announce the winner of the “Artist to Watch Presented by Taco Bell” award.  I believe this was a fan-vote award, that may or not have actually involved tacos.  As they announced the names of the five nominees, my wife and I laughed at our complete lack of knowledge regarding these artists.  While I recognized a few of the names, I could only name one song by any of them.  The winner was Austin Mahone, a name I recognized but knew nothing about.  They played what I presumed to be his hit as he made his way to the stage.  The song, to me, sounded like any other number of current pop hits and offered me nothing of value.  Then, when he began to speak in acceptance of the award (Presented by Taco Bell), my wife and I started laughing as we attempted to place his phony and contrived, hip-hop/pop-centric accent.  Seriously, dude?  Has Bieber taught us nothing over these past several months?  Stop it!  Quit being a caricature!  You want to know why Justin Timberlake has been, and continues to be, so successful?  Because he’s so freaking talented!  Not because he creates a phony persona that he thinks will attract people to him!  When he’s not onstage performing,  he’s himself.  He’s relaxed.  He’s genuine.  THAT makes him likeable.  Not some trendy accent or outrageous “hey, look at me” behavior.

But more and more in top-40 pop, Timberlake is the exception.  Apparently, the key to getting noticed, is to be outrageous.  And right now, especially in the male dominated  hip-hop genre, misogyny is the outrageous order of the day.  It actually has been for a while.  It all seems to stem from a base “I’m about getting mine” attitude which includes treating women as objects to be possessed and “had”.  And as likeable as Justin Timberlake is, he isn’t immune to some occasionally cavalier attitudes toward women in his music.  But  it’s not just the music, it’s the pop culture at large.  Just turn on the T.V., or surf the internet for about 30 seconds, or open a magazine, or visit your local mall.  it’s there.   But it’s not just misogyny, it’s an overall lack of common courtesy and respect for people.  It’s selfish bravado.  And it’s phony.  It’s image without substance.

I’m not naive enough to suggest that this didn’t exist when I was a kid (“Girls on Film” or “Hot For Teacher” , anyone?).  But it felt different.  The “image” part played second fiddle to the “substance”.  When an artist appeared on a show and did something outrageous , I always understood it as just “part of the act” (think KISS, or early Genesis, or Alice Cooper).  Ultimately, that artist was judged on the substance and quality of the music being put out.  I think.  Maybe I I’m just being myopic.  Or maybe I was just really sophisticated in my youth.  The point is, though the problem has been around for a long time, it just seems to be getting worse.  Even a song like the ever-present and ever catchy “Blurred Lines”, which supposedly is meant to be “tongue-in-cheek” in regards to its characterization of women, can’t possibly be taken that way amidst the sea of clear-cut misogyny.  My sense of things in today’s pop culture is that the image is being more and more accepted by youth over the substance, even when the substance is good!    It’s more important to try to seem like something that can be widely accepted within the current pop cultural framework rather than be yourself and create something that stands outside, and maybe even above, the substantive norm.  Yes, I’m generalizing, here.  But you get my point.

So all of that brings me back to, you know, her.  Miley.

I’ve watched the performances.  They were ridiculous.  They shouted “Hey, look at me!”.  But If I’m being honest, it wasn’t any more shocking than past performances from the likes of Madonna, Brittney Spears, Lady Gaga, and others.  It’s just easier for us to be heard through social media outlets than it ever has been before.  And apparently, we’re outraged at what we saw Miley do!  But isn’t that kind of what she wants?  “See, I’m not Hannah Montana anymore!  I’m a bad girl!  Be outraged by me!!”  Whatever.  It’s phony.  Just ignore her.  She likely doesn’t even realize what she’s doing.  And getting mad at Miley Cyrus for twerking and tonguing her way through Sunday night’s VMA’s is like getting mad at a cow for having Mad Cow Disease.   She’s been infected by the broken culture that she’s grown up in.  And getting mad at her isn’t going to fix it.

Look, I’m not trying to solve this problem with my little blog post.  This is a discussion that needs to be much bigger than the one I can host here with my tens of readers.  But a bigger discussion does needs to happen in order to start creating a positive shift in the culture.  If you look for it, you can find a kind of slow-bubbling undercurrent of outrage, especially over the misogynistic condition of things.  But protest from within the industries that feed the pop culture machine remains mostly unheard.  Why upset the apple-cart, I guess?  And it will likely take some loud and important voices from within the culture to start speaking up before significant movement starts to happen.  In the meantime, I need to make sure that my boys hear my voice over the din of cultural influence that surrounds them.  And if enough of us speak up, even in small ways, maybe it will get the attention of someone who has a direct influence on the culture makers.  And when that starts to happen, maybe Miley will relax.  And we’ll all find out what Austin Mahone really sounds like.  And substance will dominate image on the VMA’s.  And I will be able to listen to “Blurred Lines” without feeling guilty.  And we’ll stop poisoning our beef so I can eat my burger in peace.

This got longer than I originally intended.  I feel like I’ve said a lot, and yet it also feels like I didn’t say much.  I guess that’s a reflection of how complicated this issue is.  I don’t have all the answers.  And maybe my observations are completely off.  But I’m pretty confident that Miley Cyrus isn’t the problem.  And throwing stones at her isn’t the solution.  But a real, smart, non-reactionary, widespread discussion about all of this might start getting us somewhere.  So be smart!  And start talking.  And listening.  Be respectful and courteous.  Let’s get back to loving each other well.  That feels like as good a place as any to start making some cultural change.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on August 27, 2013.

2 Responses to “I think we just need to ingore her. You know, her.”

  1. Mmm-bopping or Twerking….it’s all the same….It’s all about “Me, me, me”… and “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”! It’s all a bunch of shite, that’s why I don’t watch me tele anymore (said in my fake British-Asian accent)

  2. […] giving so much thought this morning to the decline of pop culture, I wanted to post something completely counter to that […]

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